Handcuffs should not be used for economic offenders, recommends parliamentary panel
New Delhi: People taken into custody for economic offences should not be handcuffed and clubbed with those arrested for heinous crimes such as rape and murder, a parliamentary committee has recommended.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, headed by BJP MP Brijlal, also recommended changes to the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS) on the issue of police custody of an accused beyond the first 15 days from arrest.
The Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS-2023) bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on August 11 along with the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS-2023) and the Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam (BSA-2023) bills.
The three proposed laws seek to replace the Code of Criminal Procedure Act, 1898, the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, respectively.
The parliamentary panel noted that it felt the use of handcuffs, as outlined in Clause 43(3) of the BNSS, is appropriately restricted to select heinous crimes to prevent escape of individuals accused of serious offences and ensure safety of police officers and staffers during arrests.
However, the committee is of the view that “economic offences” should not be included in this category. This is because the term “economic offences” encompasses a wide range of offences — from petty to serious — and therefore, it may not be suitable for blanket application of handcuffing in all cases falling under this category.
“The committee, therefore, recommends that Clause 43(3) may be suitably amended to delete the words ‘economic offences’ from the clause,” the panel said.
Clause 43(3) of the BNSS states: “The police officer may, keeping in view the nature and gravity of the offence, use handcuff while effecting the arrest of a person who is a habitual, repeat offender who escaped from custody, who has committed offence of organised crime, offence of terrorist act, drug related crime, or offence of illegal possession of arms and ammunition, murder, rape, acid attack, counterfeiting of coins and currency notes, human trafficking, sexual offences against children, offences against the State, including acts endangering sovereignty, unity and integrity of India or economic offences.”
On the issue of police custody of an accused, the committee noted that Clause 187(2) of the BNSS stipulates a total of 15 days for police custody, to be utilised in whole or in parts at any time, during the initial 40 days or 60 days out of the detention period of 60 days or 90 days, as applicable.
However, there is a concern that this clause could be vulnerable to misuse by authorities as it does not explicitly clarify that the custody was not taken in the first 15 days either due to the conduct of the accused or due to extraneous circumstances beyond the control of the investigating officer.
“The committee recommends that a suitable amendment may be brought to provide greater clarity in the interpretation of this clause. The commission also recommends that in Clause 482 of the BNSS, the words ‘the accused may be required for police custody beyond the first fifteen days’ may be added,” it noted.
Under the current Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), police custody can be sought and granted only during the first 15 days of detention, for a maximum of 15 days.
The clause stipulates a total of 15 days for police custody, but allows authorities to use this in whole or in parts at any time during the initial 40 days (for offences carrying up to 10 years of punishment) or in the first 60 days (for offences carrying punishment beyond 10 years).
The reports of the parliamentary panel were submitted to the Rajya Sabha on Friday.